Feb 1 • 1HR 6M

The Land is My Ancestor

with genomic researcher Dr. Keolu Fox

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the land is my ancestor

Patty 

So, anyway, so we're here with Keolu Fox. Chanda had made this comment, quoting you about the land is my ancestor, and that is a scientific statement. And she was just completely taken by that comment. And then so was I. And that's really all I've been thinking about. Because it's just such a, it's just such a neat way of thinking and understanding our relationship with the other than human world and our connection to place, and all of that. And so yeah, so now I'm going to let you introduce yourself. And what you mean by that phrase, when you say the land is our ancestor,

Keolu

Roger that. Aloha everybody, my name is Keolu Fox and my mo'oku'auhau, or my genealogical connection or origin is to the Kohala Kapaʻau  which is the northernmost district of the Big Island of Hawaii. And I'm joining you from the Kumeyaay nation here in La Jolla. And it's a beautiful day, it's always a beautiful day here. But I'm a genome scientist, I focus on all kinds of things. And mostly, I have been really thinking about that idea.

And I've been centering around that idea for a little bit. Because many of you know, there have been a lot of things going on where we live, where we're from the Big Island right now. Our volcano is active, and Pele is letting her hair down. But we have another very sacred place. And that's Mauna a Wākea, Mauna Kea, right? There have been all of these protests in this, this tension that's kind of like, played out in a lot of different ways. Because we have a problem with settler colonialism. And we have scientists, who would rather seek authorization instead of instead of consensus building and taking care to actually asked our people what we want.

And so I thought about this idea of like, what is actually shaping our genomes over time, right? We always have these comments about our, our genealogical connection to the Āina, right? Like one of my favorite online scholars, was a medical doctor, his name's Dr. N. Emmett Aluli., is always saying the health of the land is the health of the people and the health of the people is the health of the land. And when you think about that, historically, it's actually the same thing. So, what our community is saying about a, hey do you need to dig four stories into the Earth, into this Āina, you know, not only our ancestors buried there, and there’s fresh water aquifers, and there's, it's a very sacred place for cultural protocol. But it's also our ancestor.

And so I think that gets lost to a lot of my Western colleagues with a certain worldview, they're, they're willing to accept the idea that, you know, natural selection, and Charles Darwin and these finches on these islands have been shaped by this different geography. But they're not willing to accept it in terms of humans, because they're human exceptionalists. So from our point of view, it's like, we are, the Mauna, the Mauna is us, it really has shaped our genomes. So has the ebb and flow of the moana, the ocean. So has high elevation in the Himalayas.  So in that sense, you know, I think Indigenous people have it right, because we have not really completely separated ourselves from the Āina.

That's why we believe in sustainability. We, you know, indigeneity is sustainability. Like it's the, it's synonymous. And I can give you a bunch of examples, but I think, I think that idea is really powerful, because it allows you to like, with just complete fluidity, connect all of these really important ideas around natural selection and evolution, and also Indigenous epistemology. And if you look historically to like the ways we talk about biological complexity in the Kumulipo, which is an ancient origin chant, which was famously translated by Queen Liliuokalani. And you'll see that like, if you look at where this this, this story starts this chant is Pule, where it begins is with like darkness. Right? And then we get into single celled organisms, slime molds, and then we build up the complexity you see over time. And, and, and I'm not like an authority scholar on that. But I think it's so important that it's not. It's not wrong at all. You know, in fact, it was right before, maybe somebody like Charles Darwin had put it together in English. So I think that's a really important idea. And the ways that we think about evolution and natural selection in our relationship to the Āina is really important.

Patty 

Yeah, I'm reading right now, though, I always have, like, so many books close to me, Salmon and Acorns, Feed Our People. And early on in the book, she kind of makes a very similar point, because she's talking about the Kuruk people in Northern California, and the interconnectedness of the salmon and the water and the people and the geography and, you know, and how we impact the environment and the environment impacts them. And it goes, you know, and everything just kind of keeps weaving, weaving back and forth. It. And I think you're right, I mean, in that connection that we have, that is indigeneity, the, you know, kind of that maintaining that connection, but now I you know, as we talk about that, you know, I'm looking at Kerry, who's part of the you know, the African diaspora who maybe doesn't know, you know, kind of she talks about, you know, connecting with Ghana, but not, I'm gonna let you talk about that.

After you turn your mic on, I'm gonna let you talk about that

*laughter* 

Today, I learned from AW Peet to talk about turning your mic on rather than being mute. Yeah, I can you're going to be ableist. learn from AW on a daily basis. I love them.

Kerry 

Okay, thank you for that reminder, because I have the headset going and then clicked off. And I didn't realize both really does matter. So anyway, what was coming to mind for me as I was listening to this conversation, and, you know, just feeling into this information. You know, what just came up just from, like, I think it's that soul space is, of course we are, and what comes up when we think about, you know, the earth, you know, the space of our being, being connected through this human genome being a part of the earth and all of it being interconnected. Why? What I what I believe has happened is, as we have moved into this colonial space, that disconnection is been such a disruption that has affected our genome, and had has us acting in ways that is not like ourselves, and what what I take when we think about myself and my, my Blackness, in, in my wanting to know, where my where I come from, I feel into this ancestral memory. And I know, it's an epigenetic memory of something that my, my ancestry has not known for a very long time. And yet, I feel it. And that's why when we are having this conversation, I was so interested, I've been reading and listening and watching some of your work in the last day, actually, I really sat down and watched it. And it's, it makes me go in, it makes me go to that deep space. And what what do we offer out? Or what words would you offer out for those of us who don't have that direct connection? And yet the earth that special, that special link is calling us?

Keolu

Hmm, I think that is a brilliant question. And I think like couching it that way, too, because of the forced migration of people is still a diaspora. Right? And that is a really powerful and important idea in terms of thinking about, it's not just shaping our genome or mo'oku'auhau and our genealogy but we have this term we love in Hawaii and it's Ka mua, ka muri, and it means walking backwards into the future. And actually, we say that all throughout throughout the moanoculture. So Tahiti, Marquesas, Samoa, Maori, like we all We all say this this term. And I think it's a really important thing to think about.

So when we like when we think about our radiation and diaspora, across the Pacific, if I just focus on island people, we have a founder people who are on waapa, right? They're on boats, they're going they find a new place. They represent like a fraction of that genomic diversity that existed in the original place or position. That's not so different than a forced migration. No, I mean, very similar. Then you have the arrival later, of settlers, and you get like these population collapses. And so what happens is that population that's made it to Hawaii, or you know, really any Indigenous community from Hernan Cortes, to James Cook, this encounter with colonialism, again, shapes our genome, and we can see this, when we look at the genomes of modern Indigenous people, we can see this decrease in human leukocyte antigen HLA diversity. So in that sense, it's like, the geography shapes our genome over time. It does, we are the Āina, but so do our encounters with genocide, so do our encounters with and those are like, that means that everybody that's, that's Hawaiian, for example, is a survivor of that event.

It also means that the way we attenuate inflammation, which is the root cause of common complex disease, from everything from heart disease, to cancer to and, you know, insulin sensitivity, COVID-19, all of these things are a reflection of our history. Now, our methods are getting so sensitive at identifying these things, that it's a matter of maybe asking ethical questions and saying, maybe we need more people from our communities to ask the hard questions, to build these and help prioritize these scientific questions. And iteratively kind of co-design and co-partner with the communities that we come from, because the truth is, these are hard questions to ask. Like, like, I think in our lifetimes, we will be able to determine what the impact on people's health is of the transatlantic slave trade.

And that is not a question for me to ask, though. Right. And I and I don't think that like that positionality, like, when I started this job, as a professor, someone told me, “You know, we think it's weird that you're Hawaiian, and you would want to work with Hawaiian communities. That's not objective.” And I had to fall back for a second, I was like, I'm really shocked that you would ask that some anybody would say that, you know, but that is how like, that is the status quo. And how brainwashed people are in academia like that is how few people from our communities make it into these leadership positions to be primary investigators for these major projects. These people are so not in tune with being like they work with, like Margaret Mead or something, right? Like, she's not Samoan. That's why she had all these dumb ideas. Right? Right. Like think about it like that would never?

You know, there's just tremendous insight that our people have when we work with our communities. One, if you fuck up, you can't go home for Christmas. Go home for the holidays you’re already home. Yeah, you know what I mean? Like there's, there's like a kuleana, like an obligation to your people and our health and all these other things. But also, it's like ensuring that the questions we ask are prioritized by our communities. I think I think we're getting there. And I think the way that we're interpreting the data is so much more advanced too, you know, and we're just getting started. So it's gonna be a beautiful future. But, you know, but I think that these questions aren't, aren't easy to ask, you know, so

Patty 

You talk about Just So Stories that you know, the Rudyard Kipling stories, but then you apply them to the scientific process. And that's kind of what this is making me think is, you know, because we come up with these ideas, or we like scientists, colonial scientists come up with these ideas, and who is in the room takes very much what questions are being asked, Can you unpack that a little bit about the Just So Story so that people know what I'm talking about?

Keolu

Yeah, that's a that's, that's a great like, it's a child’s story from Rudyard Kipling. who like if people who are listening don't know you, maybe you've heard of The Jungle Book, or you heard of the book Kim. Some of these old school, you know, they're like pretty colonial they take place in India, mostly. But he wrote this child's book for his daughter. And the book kind of has these funny stories where they explain like why is the elephant's nose so long? Well the elephants nose is so long because they got tugged on for 30 minutes by an alligator when he was trying to drink some water or whatever, right? But what what these two scientists in this I want to say late 70s? Peter No. Yeah, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. What they did is they said well, these these ideas are used to explain evolutionary things like their their adapt their what they call adaptionist narrative. So it's like, I can use an evolutionary narrative to explain innateness and this gets really dangerous and can become super racist, because it's used to justify shitty correlative science.

So, so and I had this mentor and he would always tell me, you know, tell me 2genes, any two genes in the genome, there's like 20,000 genes, and buy me a whiskey and I'll tell you a story. And what he was trying to say was, I can make a correlative story about anything statistically. But that doesn't mean that it like mechanistically is true. So what you see is people invoking adaptionism, natural selection and evolution, to justify really racist science that discredits the accomplishments of Indigenous people, for example.

So one of the examples I love to give is this Thrifty Gene narrative where they're like, oh, you know, and, you know, we know, we know, we're not dummies, we know we have a problem with type two diabetes and obesity in our community. We also know that Hawaiian people are really big, Samoan people are really big. We're all big. But part of it has to do with, you know, many different factors. Part of it is colonialism, because you took away our access to the reefs, and our rights around land stewardship, and hunting and fishing and all these other things. So when you replace those traditional food ways with spam, white rice and soy sauce, what do you think you get? Right.

But when you say that the reason we have this problem is is a genetic innateness. That comes from our diaspora. That's racist, right? So why do those narratives get perpetuated in really popular scientific journals, they end up in the media, and it comes down to discrediting our voyaging accomplishments. Because if you've ever talked to any navigator, they'll tell you, these waapa, these boats were filled to the brim with sweet potato, taro, pigs, chicken, all kinds of things, there was never a problem with like scarcity of calories. So how would we develop a problem where we become sensitive to or have problems with hyper caloric storage in a modern-day setting? You see what I'm saying?

And so like it gets, it gets wound up and entangled into these racist narratives in the way that they describe, maybe genome sequence data. What we do see with this mutation in this gene, it's called CRE BRF. And it's privately found in the Pacific amongst Hawaiians, we've even found it in the Chamorro and Guam. And what we see with it is it's actually associated with muscle density. And there was a follow up study, I believe in Aotearoa. It's showing that Polynesian rugby players of a, you know, of Polynesian or Maori ancestry have a higher frequency of this mutation. So it's more like a tall, dark and handsome mutation that has to do with BMI and athletic performance than it is like a thrifty mutation that predisposes us to obesity. But do you see how different it is when I'm just choosing that, that as an example, we could do this with sickle cell? We could be like, Oh, it makes people from Equatorial Africa weak. Or we could say no, this is, this is actually truly remarkable in the way that how many people have died from malaria, you know, so it's really about it's really about how you interpret the mutations and what they actually do. But if you don't have mechanistic evidence, then why are you making up and spinning these bullshit narratives that discredit our accomplishments as people?

Kerry 

I'm really just fascinated with this conversation and and where you're going with this because one of the pieces I was reading when you were speaking, talks about how most of the studies when we look at the genome, when we look at you know, breaking down the genetic understanding of things really has not done has not been done on Indigenous and People of Color. And so, you know, hearing you break that down, because we too have supposedly a pre disposition for type two diabetes and high blood pressure. It gives that different perspective. And I remember once I don't know, I remember hearing Oprah speak about that in the Black community. And I don't know who she she had been speaking to a scientist of some sort. And I remember some of the information that came out was the one of the reasons why from a Black standpoint, we seem to have had a propensity, because we, even in the Middle Passage, why we survived some of the challenges was because we had an ability to take in salt, our ability to hold salt in our thing, which does lead to the type two diabetes or the high blood pressure. But because we had this mutation, it actually was one of those things that afforded us to survive the atrocities of that passage, because we were able to to absorb and survive less, or our salt intakes kept our water levels or our electrolytes higher, something along those lines. Don't quote me, it was a long time ago, that I heard that, but I remember that stuck to me, because it's what you're speaking about, it's the way that the perspectives are put forward to us. Right. And, you know, normally when we put it that way, it's almost, I've always seen it, or the system puts those those narratives out to us, to keep us feeling less than. That somehow, right, somehow that structurally, our genetic or genomes or makeup is not, as you know, valuable, or as put together as some. And when we then talk about this idea that it has not, we haven't even been studied in the same way. How, how does those two things play off of each other?

Keolu

Yes. Yeah. I mean, um, so first and foremost, I'm so glad you mentioned that, that, that it's like we're taking a, pardon the pun, but it's a minority of the data, if it's 90% of genome wide studies, they've mostly included people of Western European ancestry. So, you're making all these inferences and narrativizing data? You know, less than 1% of these studies have included Indigenous people, very small percentages of included individuals of African ancestry, and that's a continent.

I want to put some things into context. It's like that is the origin of mankind. We spent more time there than anywhere else on planet Earth, it has more genetic diversity, languages, cultural diversity, food, culture. I mean, it is heritage, it's it's so to reduce it again, as a monolith to one continent isn't nuts, that's one. And then, and then we have all of these other conversations that go around there. And to your point about the the salt slavery hypertension hypothesis, which is a very, which is a very interesting idea. Again, it's a narrative that's popularized, but but again, it's not been taken to task in a way where it's either been proven or disproven, because we don't have enough data for that.

So of course, when you build narratives, it's going to be it's not going to be in service of a community, you're not going to ask questions about how much stress to these people have every day? Is that a factor? What about people's diets? What about people's access to healthy food, and all of these other kind of metrics that are probably more informative and predictive of people's health.  So I'm not saying that genomics doesn't play a role it does. But again, the the way that you we create narratives around it. Now then let's look at the other side of the coin, because this is the most brutal part 95% of clinical trials feature white people. So, we're not even designing drugs for our people in the way that we were like, designing drugs for one population and then giving it to other people.

Or I worked in blood transfusion research for a while. And we would have 90% of people who donate blood are white, and then and then the, the kind of inverse of that, you know, sickle cell patients are Black. You see what I'm saying? Like it's a it's a stark contrast. We're literally giving somebody a temporary organ, we're infusing them with blood that includes all types of diversity of RNA from one other, you've seen what mRNA can do now. Having, now we're taking RNA from one person and giving it to another and we're not really thinking about what the consequences of that are. So I'm just saying we've not really thought everything through it a more thoughtful way, because we haven't had the attention to detail with population specific medicine. And I'm hoping that over the next few decades, that becomes something that's really important

Kerry 

That, that I love that so much that really resonates with me because my brother, my brother in law, actually doesn't have sickle cell. But he carries the sickle cell trait. And he also carries the Thalassemia traits. And interestingly, we were just together, it's our, it's our Thanksgiving here in Canada. And we were just down at I was just over at their house. And he's having an episode, where yeah, he's having a sickle cell episode. And it's, you know, he's had several over the years, he's, you know, he's been in our family for 30 years, and I can’t even believe that, but um, we, you know, he's been around. And what we've noticed is my, my niece carries the sickle cell trait, and she gets mild symptoms, she gets very mild, like, sometimes, you know, the fingers tingle, she'll have a stressful event and, you know, really be in pain at the extremities and some of the same things that her father has, but not to the same degree. And well, it's interesting when you bring this up, it, it tells me how little we understand, because technically, he doesn't have the disease. And yet he gets exactly the symptoms, and it has been treated in the same ways, even though they're not exactly sure how and why it's happening. And I bring that up, because it's exactly what you're saying that there's there's, the studies don't extend far enough. Right. And while there, we manage it, it's it's almost been like, I shouldn't say this, but when when the doctors that have been treating him for a long time get around, he's been like a test subject, a bit of a unique case. And it's been trial and error. You know, they've tried different things to see what's worked, and thank goodness. I mean, he's, we can get him through them. But it's, it was something that struck me that it's a unique space, and not very much is known about how to make it work for him. So they, you know, throw things at it. It's hope it's been it sticks so far. Right?

Keolu

Yeah. I mean, we I mean, you know, things get even more complex, when you're you come from a place like Hawaii, they showed in the census data, that we are the most diverse state state in the United States of America. And we, I mean that in by and that's like a long shot. And also we have the highest percentage of mixed ancestry people. And it's been like that for a while. And you know, and that that means that things get a little more complex. And we need to really think about what the future of medicine is going to look like, especially if it's predictive and preventative.

Patty  28:10

I’m  just thinking it's not that long ago that people were saying that Indigenous people were genetically predisposed to alcoholism. I remember hearing that as a kid. And I think there was a brochure had just come out not that long ago. About some Cree guides, it was a, it was a fishing camp. In northern, I think it was Manitoba, did not to give alcohol to the guides, because they're genetically predisposed to alcoholism. And it was like, these ideas and they take root. They take root, and they don't go anywhere, because they keep medicine, you know, Western medicine, Western scientists, they keep looking for the problem in us. There is something wrong with our genetics, something wrong with our makeup, you got to fix us. There's nothing wrong with colonialism. And with the imposition of you know, this change in diet. And I mean, one of the things in this book that they talk about is the salmon run and how it's gone. It's 4% of what had happened. And that's, you know, so that's a significant change in their diet, which leads to a significant change in their health. You know, because like you said, now they're eating spam and flour.

Keolu

Oh, yeah. I think that's so fascinating. It's like we it's kind of like a slippery slope Sometimes, though, because we can point to actual examples where where we are, I mean, and sickle cell is such a great example. And so is high elevation, adaption and all of these incredible ways in which we are a reflection of the Āina. You know, but when I tell my colleagues, we're going to empirically measure the impact of colonialism on the genome, they're like, whoa whoa whoa,  I don't like that. We don't like that. You know, and you have to think about it. I mean, it's it's about how we choose to. I mean, I obviously like I often do that to make people feel uncomfortable, because I want them to know how we felt going through these medical schools and education programs throughout the whole time, because now we're wielding the power of being able to prioritize the question, and that's unique now. And it feels good. But but but also, but also, um, we want it to have impact. You know, I don't we don't want to tell people where they came from. That's not important to us. That's not a question we prioritize. But if it has a role in thinking about how we can predict and prevent disease, or create treatments that speak to our history, then that's important. And I think I think we're getting there. And yeah, we just, you know, we need to we need more students that like and where the prototype Wait, till you see the next generation? Man? They're like,

Patty 

Yeah, well, I know. You know, we, we have been talking about, you know, studying Kerry often talks about epigenetics, you know, kind of studying the long term impacts of trauma. And I've heard a few people asking what where's the long term studies on the impact of affluence or influence on the impact of greed on some of these ultra wealthy families? What how does that affect their genome? Like, are they genetically predisposed to being selfish assholes? What's going on?

Keolu

Regarding the epigenetic stuff, we have a new project that we're working on. And yeah, and I mean, I think we're gonna get get to the point of point, point and position where we have tools that are sensitive enough to, you know, ask answer the questions that we that we have, and provide solutions that might result in better better treatments for our people, right.

And one of them is the effect of testing nuclear bombs in the Pacific. And this is, you know, my auntie, who is a female, Native Hawaiian colonel, she's retired now. Amazing person. But she spent a lot of time in various places. And I mean, the things that we've we, you know, she's she's told me about and the types of health infrastructure that exists and the rates of different types of cancer that are telltale signatures of nuclear radiation exposure. I mean, it is just astonishing, what you'll see in the Marshall Islands and how Henry Kissinger is like, ah, 50,000 people, that's just a statistic, who cares? Or Jacques Chirac, reinstating nuclear testing programs in French Polynesia, or, you know, among the Tuamotu Island archipelgaos there and Mururoa. And the rates of cancer were seen. And these are telltale signatures, you know, the, the thyroid cancers, the lymph node cancers, the leukemias, and I guess the question is, one, can you detect that? Is it is it going to be a signature of in the genome that is independent of inherited cancer? Is it baked into the genome in a transgenerational way, which would be, that'd be epigenetic inheritance, which in my opinion, is straight up genocide, there should be real reparations for this. And then can we design better types of chemotherapy that speak to that, because if it is, has a unique architecture, and it is a unique signature, then we need better drugs for our people. And the French people need to pay for it. And those are the facts.

And so and so here, we are now approaching new questions that we can use these tools for ones that allow us to move forward in terms of medical advancement, but also in terms of our goals of achieving justice. And I am so stoked about these new projects, because I feel like I was born for this shit. Also, also, because we're capable, and our people deserve better. You know, and I think that's going to inspire other scientists who are way more brilliant than, than I am. To, to come up with with with solutions. But this these are some of the new projects that we're working on.

And I'm not afraid of the French government. They know what they did. They tested 193 nuclear bombs over from 1966 to 1996. Think about how recent that is, wow. And then they had the nerve to name their new hospital after Jacques Chirac. And that was when I was like in Paeete in Tahiti, that's such a slap in the face. So from my point of view, and these are my brothers and sisters, you know, those are my my ancestors, my kupuna so you got to understand when you test nuclear bombs in the Pacific, it doesn't just sit there. I mean, you have ocean currents, wind currents, I mean, some of the stuff we're hearing about. So, and those happen to be this is the most important part, these happen to be questions that that community has prioritized as far as health issues go. So here we are.

Patty 

Yeah. And it's, and that's so important because they, they come, people come in, they have these ideas, they want to, you know, with colonial, you know, they see the problem, they're gonna fix it, they're gonna, you know, they're, and then they're, you know, they're doing their studies and their, you know, their outcome measures and all the rest of it. And there's no, there's no relationship, there's no relationship building, at the front end, any relationship that they start is just so that they can come in and help and so that they can come in and fix this. And it's like, they keep doing this. And things just keep getting worse from our point of view. But then that just keeps clearing more land from their point of view. So I understand why ...

Keolu

Mm hmm.

Kerry 

That, you know, I think it gives a new meaning to that saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I very often feel that, you know, it's too we see how there seems to be a playbook. And the playbook shows up over and over and over. And any Indigenous any, you know, native communities of any origin around the world. And that idea that the Western colonial system has to come in and fix us. Right, Oh, normally has that underlying agenda, where, you know, they're, they're coming to help. But then, you know, it was like a backhanded help. Because we're, we're always, you know, ass out, pardon my French, you know, especially with the French and any of the other colonials that have come in and created the systems to which we're now having to dig out and build our resiliency up against. And that's, I think, also, another part of this that I'd love to see or hear what your thoughts on about it, is the remarkable way that we have been able to adjust and adapt. Right. Yeah, I really think that that's something that has been so powerful amongst people

Keolu

Yeah, I totally agree with that. I'm, my mom is such a genius. She's like the Hawaiian MacGyver, you know, like, she just really figures out ways to engineer all kinds of systems with limited resources. And we live in a pretty rural, isolated place. And, you know, I'm on the phone with her. And she's like, oh, yeah, the truck door, it's not coming for three months, it's on backorder, or this generator part. It's not, it's not coming. But we did this, and so on and so forth. And you see how much ingenuity and genius exists in our communities in all these beautiful ways. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Unless, you know, things became very differently.

Now, when we contrast like where we live with other areas, where there's like hotel and tourism, infrastructure, I mean, the things that they need come like *finger snap*, you know, agriculture from the mainland, protein from the mainland, other things. So you just see this contrast and like, what about when we need medical things in our community in the outer islands? Why are you prioritizing capitalism, and profit over our community's health just over and over and over and over again. And I can point to our toxic relationship with tourism throughout this pandemic, because we had an opportunity to push the reset button, right, we had an opportunity to reform and recalibrate and we didn't do it. And that's because we have too many corrupt politicians that are you know what I mean, I'm gonna call it like I see it. I just feel like we had the opportunity to move forward with other forms other, just develop forms of our circular economy, an island system that has all forms of renewable energy.

I mean, the island that we live on alone has 11 out of 13 biomes on planet Earth, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet Earth. So why are we the extinction capital of the world? Why are we the invasive species capital of the world? Right? Why do you want to build a golf course here? You know, that's stupid. That's not even a sport, you don't even sweat when you play that I'm talking about. So like that we are very familiar with all these, I mean, the forms of exploitation and the forms of of genius and ingenuity and Futurism, you know, I think that Hawaii is a really incredible place for that. We will continue and whether it's agriculture or ranching or energy sustainability solutions, oceanic sciences, geology, like anything, that's why all these people want to come to our islands to make hay. You know, you know, that we've been, we've been prac ..  How do you think we found these islands? Science? You know? So,

Patty 

yeah, like, when you think like you had talked earlier about, you know, kind of about the Pacific, diaspora and, and, you know, kind of traveling, those are some pretty huge distances requiring some pretty significant knowledge of not just celestial navigation, but winds and ocean currents, and who else is out there, and things that want to eat you and making sure that you have enough food. You know, and who are you gonna call for help when you're on a boat in the middle of the ocean, you got to be pretty resourceful. And like, we don't, we don't often think about that. And that's like, you know, we're so impressed with you know, Columbus, right? It was just Columbus, Indigenous peoples, or whatever. You know, and whoo, you know, he crossed the ocean, whatever. And, you know, 1492, you know, and that was such a major accomplishment. But y'all were all over the Pacific a long time before that.

Keolu

You're preaching to the choir, you know, honestly, I just wrote this piece for Indigenous People’s day, Indigenous futures day. And I told you earlier before it's late, yeah. So it'll be out in like, the next 24 hours. But it's about many of those ideas. I mean, we had all of these we had and have all of these super complex. I mean, if you ever get to work or meet some of these master navigators, I mean, they are, they are treasures, like Hawaiian treasures. You know, I mean, they're not all Hawaiin. And, you know, but they're there throughout the Pacific. But, I mean, you're talking about bird migration patterns for land, finding birds, the green turquoise glint on the bottom of a cloud that lets you identify a lagoon from 300 miles away. I mean, you work with these people, and you understand that. It's humbling, you know, people that that are that are operating, and have that skill set.

And yeah, I mean, we just got we it was the fastest in less than 1000 years, our kupuna traversed a territory or space of the space of Eurasia, and it wasn't just unidirectional, right. It's like, oceanic superhighway. Complex, dynamic routes back and forth. And I think we're still only beginning to understand what, how truly remarkable that level of travel and comfort on the ocean was. And then when you talk about, like being in tune with the Āina, and how the ocean shapes your genome, I mean, we're talking about people that really understood navigation. And if you're ever out there in the middle of the ocean, and it's not at night, because at night, it gives you a little comfort, and you can use the Milky Way. Right. But, but I mean, during the day, it's just like overwhelmingly confusing. But over there with with the, you know, the Inuit and the Yupik that very similar, I've been been to that part of town and I'm like, oh, it's white everywhere. And it's kind of scary.

Patty 

It just keeps going.  I’ve been up to Iqaluit on Baffin Island. You don't want to leave, like my son lived. My son lived there for 18 months. And he would like to go hiking out on the on the tundra. And he was warned, don't go too far. Like make sure that you can keep certain landmarks in sight. Because you get past the wrong hill. And you're done. You can walk for three days and you won't find anything. So you know to navigate that is just ..  and yet they navigated it circumpolar navigation there. You know, traveling across it only looks far apart. And then you tip the Earth on its side and you can see how connected those circumpolar people are and how actually close together they are. And we forget, we don't think about it like that, because we're so used to looking at the Globe in a particular way. And it's a very Eurocentric way of looking at it.

Keolu

Oh, yeah. No doubt about that. But I saw these little maps, these wooden carved maps, and they were made. I forget, I want to say it was Upik. But it might have been anyway. But it was a used by people who are hunting. They use it as a way to like, understand the coastline in which they're cruising. Oh, I forget what it's called. Yeah, I'll try to find it. I'll send it to you guys afterwards. “Yeah, probably, it's called this.”

Patty:

*laughing* And I'll remember what you were talking about.

Kerry 

I love that so much. You see what I'm what really comes to me through this whole course of the conversation is what how brilliant. We all are. And, and when we are given the opportunity to stand and feel into and create our own truths. It shifts this enormous and enormously, we shift the space, we really get these new, innovative, which really are connecting back into the old ways anyway. But we can we can get this beautiful space of melding the old, into the new and refreshing allowing ourselves to remember what I think we've already known. And and when I hear, you know, that they're, they're now starting to study the how how people were navigating the seas, and that, you know, it's like a superhighway. And once again, what keeps resoundingly in my head, I always say the ancestors sit on my shoulders. And I'm hearing somebody's going, of course, it was, you know, sometimes we are so removed, because of the view that we sit in right from this colonial Western viewpoint. That it always was. And we're not just talking about, like a period of time, we're talking about real time, people who were living their lives, people who were, you know, creating these experiences, you know, determining their destinies and the end the laneways of the oceans. And I think it's so important to bring that piece of the humanity back, understanding that Mother Earth, Gaia, whatever we want to call this space was connected to that space connected to that be. And I think that's what innately we bring. If that makes sense.

Keolu

Oh, absolutely. It makes sense. I was reading this thing recently about the way that whale bladders are used to make all of the, the skin for the different kayak. They did like this mathematical approximation of like, what would be the perfect aerodynamic or hydrogen dynamic dimensions of this watercraft? And what would it look like if you were to, like, optimize it. And the I mean, over time, First Nations people hit it on the nose, it's absolutely perfectly engineered. It's light, it's packable. And the material I mean you speak to you like using all of the materials of the creature that you're honoring, you know. And that bladder is the perfect material, it’s material sciences. I mean, it's lightweight, its transparent and almost almost camouflaged. And it is impermeable, and it is the same exact thing they used for their parka.

And I got I was thinking about that I couldn't stop thinking about it, because it is so perfectly optimized over time. And that it speaks to the local complexity of that environment. And this is the problem with a lot of capitalism, too. It's like, we started this Indigenous Futures Institute here. And the whole goal is to seek that local complexity in every technology that we engineer. Everything that we create should be in context to that environment, just like our genomes, just like that parka just like that the waapa, the way that our ancestors over a long ass period of time finally figured out that if you put two hulls next to each other, you can go anywhere in the world to the most remote islands in the world. If you displace weight and water and make it hydrodynamic that way. And look at all of the models they use for like the America's Cup, for all these like carbon fiber. They're all catamarans and trimarans and so that's our intellectual property, and Larry Ellison better recognize that and pay my people. Because you, you know what I mean, you're talking about these are the fastest boats in the world. That's our stuff. So like, but I just look to all of the ingenuity and context of the environment. And I'm like, Man, I can't stop my mouth is just like *pantomimes open mouth*, amazing. It's amazing. So I just, you know, basically want to spend the rest of my life looking for more that it's everywhere. Yeah.

Patty 

And then what capitalism does though is it takes that one particular model, and then it just wants to replicate it all over the world.  It works here. And let's just do this everywhere. Let's just manufacture mass manufacturing, everywhere. And that's, I love what you're talking about with that Institute. Let's look at the local diversity, that and then look at, look at that local diversity and build that as opposed to just let's just, you know, now we're just gonna scatter it all over the world. And everybody's got to do it.

Keolu

Yes. That's our EK, like, I was thinking about this new initiative in Vancouver, like, if you're listening all my Indigenous peeps in Vancouver, and you're doing that four block stretch, and you're the architect and engineering people on that job. And this is some serious land back stuff. So what they do with it is the most important thing, because you have to show the rest of the world that you're the leader in this shit. Do not borrow ideas from other places in the world. Make sure that that speaks to your heritage, your accomplishments, your peoples engineering, and make the most be and it will be perfect. But if you try to borrow ideas, we're gonna put Hanging Gardens from India, these bridges and da da, that no, that's that's their thing in Kerala. That's right, you know what I'm saying? Like, it's a trap.

Kerry 

I love this so much, because I think you're right. And I, I think what you're saying too, is, is it's so timely. And it's almost imperative that we hear that, because the earth as we are moving into this next phase environmentally,  we have seen that, that idea of just kind of taking some, you know, status quo prototype sort of thing and dumping it here and dumping it here, there doesn't work well. And I to really, for us to look at this, and I think shifts some of the tides, we're gonna have to get creative, innovative, in so much of understanding each ecosystem, and this idea of the biodiversity of spaces, and working out uniquely, how are we going to be able to affect it to slow down what you know is going on right now, this is very, right, like this is a time where we really have to bring that front and center. And I think these are some of the conversations that I haven't heard really happening, least from the governmental but you know, whoever is in charge spaces, they're just talking about cutting emissions. But I think that idea of narrowing it down has to come front and center,

Keolu

Agreed Trudeau has to take the colonial wax out of his ears and pay attention to the geniuses in your community. Like pay attention. I think it's so interesting too, because in Hawaii, you know, we we grew up with this, not only was our genome shaped by this ingenuity, but we watched this like dialectically intertwined phenomenon. So we have this Ahupua`a system in Hawaii. So from the top of the the moku all the way down to the ocean, we have this this like sustainable gardening gravity system. And the way it works is like you have freshwater at the top that leads to you know your sweet potato, people in what you're gonna kill me. Sweet potato patch and then you know those from the sweet potato patch and all the phytonutrients from there go into this next garden and all the phytonutrients from there go into the lo’I  which is the taro patch and then those then that bacteria goes into the fish pond where you've created this, you know, artificial fishery environment right on the water and you've stacked stones around so you get like the fish growing and eating in the mangroves and then it cannot go out the hole that it came in because it's too big so can't even get to the reef and it's this complete, then you take the leftover fish and you bring it to the top for fertilize you get I'm saying like it's a complete circular economic system. It's engineered for its invisible

Okay, that's why John Mayer arrives in fucking excuse me. He arrives in Yosemite and he's like, Wow, this place is pristine and did it and these people are like, bro, we've been cultivating this Āina for 1000s of years, right? That's our our technology systems are invisible. They have been designed to be infinity loops. Right, we talk about the parka. I mean, I could break down any one of those technologies and show you why it's an invisible infinity loop. Let's contrast that with capitalism and optimizing every single system for exponential growth and profit. If it's going this way (upwards), that's not good. It needs to go this way (circular). And so if it's not working within the circular system, and then you have all these other people who's the lady who's talking about donut economics, it's like, okay, you stole our IP. Maybe they're going to give you a MacArthur Genius Grant, another one that should have went to an Indigenous person, you know, can you do, but I think that the that a lot of these large institutions are starting to get hip to it and realize that, that, that they the things that were invisible to them are starting to take shape. You know,

Kerry 

What, what's in the dark always comes to light. And, and I find that interesting, though, is that, you know, just based on what we know, a western culture to do, is that a space that, you know, we want them to know, in that way? I think, for me, what what comes up is making sure we stay front and center and that we're ready to snatch back.

Keolu

Yeah, right. Your IP, the IP thing. I mean, I think we really need to get in I'm we've started a whole kind of Indigenous ventures focus on intellectual property, because we have to position our communities, because that is a great way. And we've started a number of different companies that are really focused on that mechanism. It's like benefit sharing. How do we bring the money back to the people? So let's like for example, let's say you have a community that's adapted to high elevation in the Himalayas, okay, I'm just going to pick them. And we find a genetic mutation that allows us to expedite the development of a new drug to make the next I don't know Viagra. Okay,

Patty

okay. High altitude Viagra. But,

Keolu

I mean, I'm saying this, and it sounds like science fiction, but this is happening. Now, there are multiple companies that are interested in this, okay? Right, okay. Because they know that who did all the legwork for you? Evolution, and if I can zero in on them on a molecule that allows me to understand how to make a new drug, I will do that. And I will patent that information. And I will put that drug on the market.

Now, what this company Variant Bio is doing is they're saying, no, actually, we give X percentage of the royalties and intellectual property to the community in which it's derived, they have benefit, they have a benefit sharing clause, okay. And a large portion of that money goes back into select programs that are involved in cultural revitalization practices, education, health care, all the drugs that are created, in partnership with that community, they're either given to the community for free or at cost. So, none of these like Vertex Drug.  Americans are the worst the drug hits the market, it's $300,000 a year and you have can only get access to it through your insurance company. So they're like disrupting the whole relationship.

Now, here's the beauty of it. That's because these companies, if they make money on that, this is the they can buy back land, the exact same land that shaped their genome in the first place. And that's a circular economy there. So, we just have to think about re engineering all of these criminal industries, whether it's big pharma, any sort of energy or resource based company, you know, we're big into Indigenous data sovereignty, right? We've been talking about all of these opportunities, and just recognizing data as a resource, just like timber, just like oil, just like diamonds, any rare earth mineral, you know, and I know that the largest companies in the world are all based on generating, mining, modeling data, big data as a resource, and it's a form of economic value. It is the forum, surpassing oil in 2018, as the most important, valuable commodity on planet Earth. So why aren’t our people getting a cut of that?

Kerry 

We you've touched something, I would love to hear more about that. Maybe sending out some research just at the center of understanding of intellectual property, I would love to hear more and how, you know, because that to me, now. Now we're talking about a real way, tangible, fundamental way to shift power. And I think that that one will speak it speaks so loudly and in a language that the capitalist system would understand.  And I think if we that that's something powerful to spread the word on,

Keolu

I was going to say we're starting a kind of Indigenous intellectual property patent troll entity, because we have to play offense, it seems like often more often than not, were reacting to things or we're writing like these policy pieces, or, dare I say, ethics pieces where we're trying to get people to play book. And then then like a lot of our colleagues, they end up kind of window dressing and referencing our paper, but they don't actually do the things we're telling you to do. So, you know, I'm relatively young. So I'm observing this and seeing who's referencing our papers and see why and you know what, fuck this. We're about to make technologies. Now. We're about to make deterrent technologies, safeguarding technologies, and counter technologies, because we have to get in line and be in control.

And, you know, a lot of the things we're doing with like native bio data consortium, we recognize what was Ford's secret sauce, when he created the Model T, vertical integration, they controlled everything from the rubber that they extracted in the Amazon, to the ball bearings to the engine, manufacturing, everything on the manufacturing line, they have complete vertical control of our communities need ready, and not limited to: satellites, so we can decrease the digital divide, write our own cloud based web services, so that we can process our own information and safeguard it, right?  file repositories and store our genomes. We have to I mean, we need we need infrastructure. And we need people to stop investing in these bunk, just criminal and dare I say it, mediocre with the lack of innovation, infrastructures that already exist and invest in our people.

Kerry 

I love this so much. I'm, I'm, wow, this This to me is a conversation that I would really like even just take, take this part of it, and when I really enjoy this, because seriously, I think you're that, to me, is a real, practical, revolutionary idea. And not just an idea, you guys are putting it into practice. And it speaks to me, because we often talk in the Black community about doing very much the same thing, building our own infrastructure. And and talking about claiming these pieces. And I think, you know, sharing that information is powerful, because this is the way we can exist in the system, and claim it back for ourselves and reshape it because it's literally a monster, it's like with eight heads. And these are the ways we can cut off some of the heads and maybe they don't grow back. You know, so I would love for us to maybe do this as another conversation like, Wow, very interesting.

Patty 

But we talked so much about presence, right about, about presence, and being visible in things, but presence is not power. No, we can dominate a room, right? Like we can have, like the whole faculty, you know, be Indigenous people. But that doesn't mean that we have any power over the knowledge that we're creating, or the things that we're putting out there, because somebody is still controlling what papers get published, and somebody you know, and the funding for the projects. So you know, so we can have all the presence in the world, that doesn't mean that we have our overt the ability to control our own genetic material, you know, you know, that goes out there, or what happens with, you know, like we were talking about very early on, you know, the stories that get told about the stuff that you know about the things that are already out there, and the meaning that gets invested in that stuff, and then how that drives medical research. And they keep looking for answers in places that only wind up that only support the colonial system. So this is a really interesting and important application of the things that of you know, of the things that we started off talking about.

Keolu

Yeah, I mean, we're just getting started with building a lot of these infrastructures and companies and training the next generation of people so that they can fill these roles and who knows what amazing ideas they're going to have. I mean, we were we're holding it down. I mean, in the health and genomic space. But I think there, just there are other people, I think that are really thinking about ideas in different directions. And I'm looking forward to learning from them. I mean, a lot and a lot of this applies to other things too, like repatriation of ancestors and museum settings and artifacts.

Patty 

Well, we  just talked with Paulette Steeve's about about that. Yeah.

Keolu

Oh mahalo nui for the opportunity, you know, for so long we've not been able to to make decisions or have major leadership roles. I appreciate you guys having me on here and the conversation. And I'd love to come back sometime so …

Kerry 

Oh, well consider it done, we are going arrange that to happen. Consider it done. This was phenomenal. I really appreciate it.

Patty 

Thank you. So thank you so much. I really thought this was so interesting.

Kerry

Thank you bye.

Patty

Baamaapii